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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0002 | May 22, 2001

Presenting Skill

Make Experiences, Not Speeches

Getting your audience to do something will have far more impact than a lecture.

The Point?

The object of most facilitation is to make something "easier" for a person or more typically, a group, to accomplish something. This is particularly true with "learning facilitators," who are all too often referred to as "teachers." Many teachers have the bad habit of lecturing their audience. They feel that they must appear to know a lot and their egos very often depend on this perception being conveyed to their students. This is not to say that there is never a time for lecture, it's just that lecture is best limited to something like 20% of the time you spend with your audience. So what's the point? The point is this. Though many people process information predominately through their audio channels, not everyone does. People will better learn, engage, shift, and change by actually participating in some behavior that engages their multiple senses. Providing your audience with an experience that engages multiple senses is far more powerful than anything a mere lecture can provide.


Imagine you are a member of a local arm of the Habitat for Humanity, and you've been asked to facilitate their monthly board meeting. The goal of this meeting is to help the members to understand and support candidates that will receive assistance from the organization. Now you could just "tell" them about processes used in the past that have been effective. They might hear some of it, but probably forget most of it quite soon. Or, you could do something different. You could facilitate the creation of an experience that gets them to feel, hear, and see what their clients might often be experiencing. You could break them into pairs and ask them to imagine a time in their lives when they needed some kind of help. Maybe when they were children struggling to ride a bike for the first time, or when they left home and had difficulty finding or affording a place to live, or when they lost a job and weeks went by before they could find another, etc. Have one member of each pair take turns asking this person to share what it was like going through this experience and ask them what they most need to hear and how they need to be supported. After the partners have switched positions, open up a time for participants to share their insights with the entire group. This exercise will give them a "real-life" experience of working with people like their clients, and they will have felt in their bones!


The next time you have the opportunity to facilitate a group where learning or practicing something new might be effective, experiment by creating an "experience" that the group can participate in, adhering a commitment to yourself that you will speak no more than 20% of the total time that you are facilitating the process. I'd be interested in hearing what happened. Send me an email and let me know.

book cover


Skill-Related Resource
50 Ways to Teach Your Learner : Activities and Interventions for Building High-Performance Teams, by Ed Rose

This resource contains reproducible activities that can be used indoors and outdoors, with any group size, and any group type. Ed Rose, the training manager at Harris Semiconductor, lays the framework for learning by doing, and gives readers active, practical exercises they can use right away. This book ties interactive activities to organizational learning initiatives to produce a powerful and engaging training program, and enables the user to evaluate team-development needs, to conduct successful post-exercise debriefs, and more.

This resource is an easy-to-use, form- driven process based on the authors learning model - ATROC: Adaptability, Trustworthiness, Resourcefulness, Optimism, and Consideration. Each of the 50 reproducible exercises supports one or more of the aspects of the model. 

logo for a discussion forum

Interactive Forum
Supervisor/Research Student Coaching Model

In my academic capacity I am currently working on developing a model of coaching that would be appropriate in a supervisor to research student relationship. The traditional model (not that there necessarily is a recognized model) would focus on interaction that could be described as "direction through prescription." This is of course perhaps not consistent with the concept of coaching and I would be interested to hear your views on what a coaching relationship model might look like. Perhaps other subscribers have thoughts on the subject too?

Thank you Dr. Dave Webb for your question. I invite you all to come over to the forum for my response and to post yours as well. After entering the forum, click on MFJ Discussion #1.

cartoon image of a man releasing creative thoughts

Reader Survey 
Creating Dialogue With Our Readers

In an effort to stimulate discussion on facilitation tips, tools, and processes that are relevant to your interests, we'd like to hear from you. Please send us your answers to any or all of the following questions. We'll post them on our forum to stimulate discussion and use them to adjust our content to better serve you.

1. What is your biggest challenge as a facilitator?

2. What is your biggest challenge or concern as an active member of a working group, committee, organization, etc.?

3. What opportunities do you see for the groups you are a part of that aren't being realized?

4. What do you think are the biggest barriers in your group to achieving the results that you know are possible?

Please email your responses to Thanks. We look forward to hearing from you.

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About the Author:
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to stretch beyond their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

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